The Annual Non-Chocolate Gift Food List: Puzzling
over what to get that connoisseur friend or loved one who can't
or won't consume chocolate? Below is a list of some alternatives
that are novel, surprising, and just plain delicious.
fizzylizzy, www.fizzylizzy.com, (212) 966-6621. I don't
drink soda. Almost all of it is too sweet and too heavily carbonated,
and it's generally very bad for you. But here are combinations of
pure fruit juice and seltzer water, with no added sugar or corn
syrup and no preservatives. They're lower in calories than most
sodas or juices, they contain a generous amount of Vitamin C, and,
most importantly, they taste good! They're not overly-carbonated,
and the flavors are refreshingly tart. Fizzylizzy is available in
Ruby Red Grapefruit (my favorite), Orange, Pineapple, or Cranberry,
and you can find it throughout the Northeast and in South Florida,
Chicago, Seattle, and Minneapolis/St. Paul; you can also ask your
store manager to order it if you don't live in any of these areas.
This would be a nice alternative to sodas at seasonal parties
use it as a mixer or in your world-famous holiday punch. By now,
fizzylizzy may be available at www.beveragesdirect.com.
The Grateful Palate, www.gratefulpalate.com, (888) 472-5283.
I really like bacon, but most supermarket bacon is simply pathetic.
Enter The Grateful Palate, with a whole collection of bacons you've
never heard of before. This is bacon for bacon-lovers, bacon for
people who understand that smoke and salt and meatiness are essential
yet often missing elements in our lives. Your big problem will be
deciding between Hempler's, Rain's, Petit Jean's Hickory Smoked,
and the many other choices. But there's much more to this website
than that. Australian wines, coffees with names like "Trevor
Jones Wild Witch Blend", Blue Smoke barbecue products, cranberry
you never know what you'll find here, but
that's part of what makes it so entertaining. With products selected
carefully from all over the world, this is a quirky site devoted
to foodies seeking to expand their gustatorial horizons.
Pinch Plus, www.pinchplus.com, (866) PINCH PLUS or (207)
761-3772. This is an inspired concept! Air-tight and light-excluding
sachets hold one tablespoon of organic herbs and spices in commonly-used
varieties, such as basil, cinnamon, cayenne, and cilantro. These
products were designed for people who love to cook even when they're
not in their own kitchens-think about taking these on camping trips,
to that shore house you share with friends on the weekend, aboard
your boat, or even when you go to cook in someone else's kitchen
for a night. The herbs and spices are available in sets of ten or
twenty-four packets. Also available are small recipe booklets packaged
with three sachets that will allow you to make a complete meal;
these focus on a number of international cuisines. Perfect for on-the-go
cooks everywhere! By the time you read this, these products should
be available retail from the website.
Royal Medjool Dates, www.royaldates.com, (760) 572-0534.
In the 1920's, disease threatened Morocco's Medjool Date Palms.
The products of those trees had been reserved, up until that time,
for royalty and a privileged few dignitaries. In desperation, the
Chariff of Morocco gave the US thirteen immature trees, hoping to
help save the species. Luckily, the Bard Valley, in California,
has climatic conditions nearly ideal for these palms, and the trees
flourished. Today, anyone can enjoy these fruits. Medjool dates
are larger, meatier, and have, I think, a better and more complex
flavor than the usual puny supermarket dates, and Royal Medjool
offers gourmet packs, consumer packs, and bulk packs in up to five
different grades. A nice gift idea for dried fruit fans (like me),
bakers (think date-nut bread!), or those who like sweets but don't
want to consume refined sugar.
Omega Foods, www.omegafoods.net. Patrick Sullivan, the head
honcho at Omega Foods, started his company in an attempt to offer
consumers a healthier alternative to beef burgers but at comparable
prices and with no added dairy or wheat products; I am here to tell
you he has succeeded admirably. Omega Foods, still a young company,
currently offers three products: the SalmonBurger, the TunaBurger,
and the MahiMahi Burger. All the burgers are 100 or fewer calories
per 3.2 ounce serving, low in saturated and total fat, and packed
with high-quality protein. They taste good, too; I've been sampling
these burgers at trade shows for years (I can't decide whether the
SalmonBurger or the MahiMahi Burger is my favorite). Great for busy
people who like quick, nutritious meals they can genuinely enjoy.
The burgers are available in most natural foods stores and many
upscale grocers nationwide, but if you cannot find them where you
live, call the Product Locator Service at (541) 349-0731.
French Prairie/Dundee Fruit Company, www.oregongourmet.com,
(541) 752-7418. When you go to food trade shows year after year,
you get to know what to look for. This is one of the companies I
always search out, because they are wise enough to offer samples
of their Black Cherries in Brandy. Full-flavored fruit is packed
in fancy glass jars with no lack of good brandy flavor; the only
thing missing is the ice cream to pour it over! This is an instant
dessert for unexpected company or a self-indulgence for a special
moment. French Prairie also brandies peaches, apricots, prunes,
marionberries (indigenous to Oregon, where the company is based),
and pears. But there's more; they also sell preserves with eaux-de-vie
and brandy, and conserves (preserves with the addition of dried
fruit, nuts, citrus, or all three) with eaux-de-vie. How about a
glaze of Peach Preserves with Brandy for your next roast duck? Perhaps
a Blue Plum Conserve with Walnuts and Blue Plum Brandy for your
morning toast? Meals may never be the same! You can find these products
at oregongourmet.com; by now, French Prairie's own website, www.dundeefruit.com,
may also be online, or you can call them at (503) 537-2500.
Noix au Bordeaux/Knipschildt Chocolatier, www.knipschildt.com,
(203) 435-0895 or (203) 849-3141. How does Knipschildt do it? Not
only does this small company turn out great chocolates, but their
newest product, which fits into this listing, is equally remarkable.
Blanched, lightly caramelized walnuts are cooked with Bordeaux,
orange juice, and spices. The result? Deeply-flavored walnuts in
a thin red-wine-based sauce, a combination that cries out to be
poured over ice cream, served with goat or bleu cheese and good
bread, or simply eaten by the spoonful from the jar. A creative
and elegant gift for gourmets---or those who aspire to be. Eight
ounce jars, ideal for gift-giving, are available from Denver's The
Truffle; Darien, CT's Cheese Store; Cambridge, MA's Formaggio Kitchen;
and New York City retailers Garden of Eden and Grace's Market, among
Mo Hotta Mo Betta, www.mohotta.com, (800) 462-3220. Calling
all pepperheads! If you love your food spicy-hot, you'll love Mo
Hotta Mo Betta, a clearinghouse offering more hot foods than I've
ever seen in one place at one time. Think you can take hot sauces
called Mr. Blister or Pain 95% or Mad Cat? You'll find them all
here, along with dozens of others. Hot sauces are thoughtfully indexed
by heat level and further subdivided into the categories "scary"
and "rude". But heat junkies don't live by hot sauce alone,
so this company also offers barbeque sauces, mustards, ketchups,
marinades, rubs, chili mixes, and snacks like Wasabi Chips and Acid
Rain Hot Nuts. They'll even customize a hot sauce just for you!
Their site proclaims "We Ship the World", so it's easy
to send gifts to far-flung friends. If you can stand the heat, get
into the kitchen, and take some of these products with you.
Zingerman's, www.zingermans.com, (888) 636-8162. Resistance
is futile. Zingerman's has the hippest, funkiest, most fun print
catalog I've ever seen. It's a little upscale armchair travel and
a lot of narration that will leave your salivary glands working
overtime, whether Ari and Mo are recounting their search for a good
Portugese olive oil or telling you why their French cognac mustard
is so special. Zingerman's sells a wide array of foods (including
chocolate-perhaps I'll tell you about that some other time), but
most of all they sell knowledge and quality. This company genuinely
cares about the foods they sell and how those foods are produced;
they encourage people to learn with them (see the website guide
on selecting cheeses-raw milk rules!). Varietal breads, pasta sauces,
red rice, fleur-de-sel caramels, genuine chorizo...the choices seem
endless. Clever gift assortments and food clubs round out the selection
nicely. I haven't yet been to the store (in Ann Arbor), but I have
every intention of making a pilgrimage there as soon as possible.
Bella Vista Farm, www.bellavistafarm.com, (866) 237-8526.
Organic sugar. Organic popcorn. Organic honey and peanut butter.
Bella Vista offers all of these, but I haven't tried any, as I've
been far too occupied with their glorious organic jams and preserves.
While these jams are not as thick as some others I've tried, they
are not too sweet and have a beautiful true flavor and contain large
chunks of fruit. I can never decide whether I prefer Tart Cherry
or Blueberry, but I must not neglect to mention other choices, such
as Blackberry, Strawberry, and several blends, including "Razzle
Dazzle" (raspberry/blackberry). The jams are sold in one ounce
or ten ounce jars or five pound containers; additionally, the ten
ounce jars are sold in mixed cases of twelve. Pretty labels help
to further the gift appeal of these jams. By now, Bella Vista may
also be offering two new all-natural pasta sauces (Marinara and
Mushroom), as well as organic pasta and organic extra-virgin olive
oil, both imported from Italy.
Sally Williams Fine Honey Nougat, http://www.sallywilliamsfinefoods.com,
(718) 338-6767; to buy retail, www.chefshop.com. OK, I admit it;
I'm not the world's greatest nougat fan. But this nougat is different-deliciously
chewy, not quite as sweet as others, and very fresh-tasting. Sally
Williams, a noted South African chef, was inspired to create her
own nougat after a stroll through the bazaar in Marrakesh. Made
entirely by hand, with no preservatives, the certified-kosher nougat
is wrapped into pieces exactly the right size for two or three bites.
You have your choice of cashew, hazelnut (my favorite), almond,
or macadamia. I've always maintained that ingredient quality is
most apparent when a recipe contains few components; I believe that
Sally Williams Fine Honey Nougat is further proof of this, as the
products used to make them are few in number but obviously of high
caliber. ChefShop.com offers this nougat in individual flavors or
an assortment. Note: I had trouble getting to the Sally Williams
site via Google. By typing in the entire web address, including
the "http://" prefix, Google provides a live link which,
when clicked on, will get you in to the site.